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Thursday, September 20, 2012

After the Flood

The last few weeks have should I put it? Over eventful, let's call it that.
As we left Rio, the kids were completely unhappy to come back to reality. My daughter must have cried a river. Her tears only served as a metaphor for what we were going to face back home...
As we were told by the super, the doormen, the landlord, and our neighbors: it was an ugly wet mess. 
Our bathroom missed us so much, that a pipe bursted, not into tears, but into uncontrollable torrents. Thankfully, they kept us in ignorance until the day we were coming back. 6 inches of water, bad damage in our home, and in the neighbours' on both sides and downstairs, a moldy rug, and sorry I'm-boring-you-but-I-need-to-vent-OK-I'll-spare-u-from-more-details and much more. Everything is still upside down (and down side up), plus cable (including Internet) wasn't working until early this week, which explains my blogging absence. Adding on: going back to school, which I'm never prepared for, although I begged all week for the moment to come, so I could start cleaning up. Then teaching classes, including one to the amazing gals of West Orange, NJ; and baking orders for Rosh Hashanah for clients on the SCD diet, celiac disease, seeds, legume, sugar, dairy and nut allergies. Then, 10 loaves of challah and four festive meals to celebrate the Jewish New Year...My freezer, my fridge and my head about to explode, but somehow, it all worked out.

Mostly, thanks to my 86-year-old grandmother who prepared baths for the kids, scrubbed potatoes, ran to the store when I ran out of gluten free oat flour, sliced apples, washed dishes, co piloted me all the way to New Jersey, babysat, washed bowls, advised on the use of phyllo, and even patted my hand thanking me for having her here for the holiday. I am so grateful for having this admirable, incredible, inspiring, strong, determined, generous and hard working woman as a grandmother; with whom I can talk, share, complain, cry, hug, cook with, and be driven crazy by. How great is it to have this woman who moves mountains, manages to bring me a chandelier all the way from Mexico, rubs my neck with Icy Hot and goes through the difficulties of life never taking an "you can't" for an answer?
Today, the two of us ventured to Broadway so her trip wouldn't be all work and no fun. We had a nice lunch and then we watched the Evita matinee. We both fell in love with Ricky Martin and can't stop singing  (completely off tune, neither of us possess the musical gene) "Don't cry for me Argentina." We spoke about family, work, past good times and my mom. Today was a treasure! What a way to start the New Year!!!
A happy New Year to all of you who celebrate it, and to all of you who don't too!

In the meantime, while we meditate, analyze and consider the good things, the bad things and all we did this past year, there's still a menu to plan to prepare for the big fast of Yom Kippur.
I've perfected mine over the years and got down to an easy-to-prepare, tasty, crowd-pleasing meal that fuels the body with immediately available energy (complex carbs), and with some energy that's saved for later (fat), hydrating items and very little salt, to avoid thirst. Some protein and lots of store-bought ice cream. Yes! For us it's a Ben & Jerry's moment, and trust me, everyone who's tried this pre-fast menu swears by it. 

1. About four days before the fast, start decreasing your consumption of coffee or tea, gradually.

2. One day before, start drinking as much coconut water (natural, don't get the sweetened one) as you can (at least 8 cups throughout the day). If you're up to it, add a couple of teaspoons of chia seed into your coconut water (do no't exceed 4 teaspoons a day). It helps retain even more liquid. Best way to stay hydrated.

3. Eat this as the last meal before starting to fast (listen to your body and don't overeat. You'll feel hungry at some point during the fast. Tha't normal and a bit of the point):

- Chilled melon soup with mint and fresh lime juice from this recipe*. Do you remember it? If I'm in a hurry I just make it all honeydew, mint and limes. This will be refreshing and hydrating.

-Green salad with seeds and nuts (not salted!), sliced fruit (apples, nectarines, figs, avocados, whatever you have in hand), extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Here go some more hydrating fruits and some protein from the nuts and seeds.

- Pasta salad made with: Udon noodles (I prefer Eden Organic's 100% whole grain, but any brand will do, even if it's not whole grain) cooked and cooled, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a bit balsamic, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and ricotta, fresh mozzarella or goat milk cheese (just make sure it's not a salty kind). Use quinoa noodles if you eat gluten free (i find those are the best gf alternative). Here are some complex carbs for the first hours of fasting, some protein and a touch of good fat.

- Ice cream Sundays baby!!! Serve your favorite flavors with this home-made chocolate shell (Just melt 4.5 ounces of bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate with 0.75 ounces of virgin or expeller pressed coconut oil over a double boiler. Serve over ice cream and it will solidify immediately when the chocolate sauce touches the cold dessert) and whip some heavy cream sweetening it a bit with a touch of coconut nectar and pure vanilla extract. This might not be the best every day option, but the fat and sugar in these foods will allow your body to have good sources of energy available throughout the day. 

- Break the fast eating sensibly, slowly and preferably lots of fruits and veggies.
Adapted from Gourmet

1 small very ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 very ripe honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh mint, minced, or to taste (plus additional sprigs for garnish)

In a food processor or blender, puree the cantaloupe and lemon juice (in batches if necessary), until very smooth. Pour into a bowl or large pitcher and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
In the same processor or blender (no need to wash it), puree honeydew, lime juice and mint. Pour it into another bowl or pitcher and chill as well.
To serve, pour equal amounts of both purees at the same time into the serving bowls. Using two measuring cups (or the pitchers) is helpful to do this easily. Garnish the soup with mints sprigs and serve.
Serving variation: For a more modern look, place a round cookie cutter on the soup bowl and fill in the center (inside the cutter) with one of the soups and the outside of the cutter with the other one. Remove the cutter and the two circles will stay in place, making for a beautiful presentation.

Makes 6 servings

Have an easy fast, and we may all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a healthy and happy New Year!